Skip the Trip

Get a taste of campus life without the costs of getting there.

Paying for college is enough of a strain without shelling out big bucks to visit schools that might interest your child. You'll want to see top choices in person, but taking a virtual campus tour can help winnow the preliminary list.

At, you'll find tours aggregated from hundreds of schools' Web sites. At you can view panoramic snapshots of key campus locations at 1,200 colleges.

For short takes with slick production values, including some narration and interviews, check out The site aims to showcase some 500 schools. Want the skinny on late-night eateries, prospects for the football team or the best dorms? Choose from submissions, uploaded mostly by students, at or

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The best substitute for an actual visit is a $15 DVD from Collegiate Choice ( The hosts, who are college advisers, actually take the college tour on visiting day, wobbly video camera in hand. Production values are frustrating, but you'll see and hear everything from presentations by the admissions staff to campus tours led by perky students.

Anne Kates Smith
Executive Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Anne Kates Smith brings Wall Street to Main Street, with decades of experience covering investments and personal finance for real people trying to navigate fast-changing markets, preserve financial security or plan for the future. She oversees the magazine's investing coverage,  authors Kiplinger’s biannual stock-market outlooks and writes the "Your Mind and Your Money" column, a take on behavioral finance and how investors can get out of their own way. Smith began her journalism career as a writer and columnist for USA Today. Prior to joining Kiplinger, she was a senior editor at U.S. News & World Report and a contributing columnist for TheStreet. Smith is a graduate of St. John's College in Annapolis, Md., the third-oldest college in America.